"Building Main Street": Small Business Alternatives to Big Banks

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We come together in the halls of power and across the media as small business owners because we need to grab our good name back from corporations and lobbyists. On issue after issue, we stand for an alternative economic point of view: it’s about community, customer demand, social justice and sustainable business models. While we come together to advocate we are also exploring ways to provide concrete, hands-on assistance to our members. 

 Our Washington state affiliate has launched a collaboration with the Oakland-based Beneficial State Foundation to tackle the small business issue #1: access to credit

MinglingOver sixty Spokane mom-n-pops and their community allies and customers came out to connect and share ideas about alternatives to big banks and Wall Street who extract wealth from our communities and rig the marketplace against small businesses.  Owners of retail stores, restaurants, small manufacturers, dry cleaners, mechanics, IT and health professionals, consultants, artists and everyone in between joined in to brainstorm ways to bring together values-driven lending institutions and good providers of financial know-how assistance and Main Street Alliance members. 

 Kat Taylor, CEO and Founder of Oakland-based Beneficial State Bank and Foundation, as well as the Bank and Foundation officers, visited Spokane for the occasion and got to hear a range of entrepreneurial experiences with financial institutions. The picture, as you may suspect, is not that pretty, especially for women owners, people of color, immigrants and first-generation entrepreneurs. When it comes to being treated well by the banking industry, every small business has a horror story.

Our goal is to produce a valuable and vetted portal of values-driven lenders and service providers across Washington and beyond and to work actively on connecting them with small businesses. When we strengthen the business operations of our own members, we also strengthen our local economies and our ability to have impact on local and statewide policy debates. 

Mingling 2We envision a banking industry that is fair to the person with the least bargaining power, provides access to financial services for all our communities, particularly the under-served. We envision lending institutions that promote the stability of the financial system and contribute to the sustainability of our environmental commons. 

In other words, we believe that money should serve people, not the other way around.  We call our new project Building Main Street. Let’s build strong local economies, improve quality of life for each of us, and make widespread gains in social equity and environmental renewal.  Main Street, not Wall Street. 

Here is a little glimpse from Spokane. Stay in touch with our Washington affiliate and let them know what you think.  


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